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Composer Pauline Oliveros dies at 84

Matthew Parsons

Pauline Oliveros, a pioneering American composer whose music and philosophy influenced a wide range of fellow musicians, has died at age 84. Her death was confirmed by flautist Claire Chase on Instagram.

During her long career as a composer and intellectual, Oliveros exerted an influence on musicians ranging from minimalist innovator Terry Riley to electronic composer Morton Subotnik. As the first director of the experimental San Francisco Tape Music centre, she pioneered an approach to electronic music that paved the way for iconic tape compositions like Steve Reich's It's Gonna Rain.

Much of Oliveros's music is based on the concepts of "deep listening" and "sonic awareness": concepts intended to help musicians and listeners alike see the difference between passively hearing sound and actively listening to it. Much of the music is improvisational and based on responding musically to the sounds that others are making around you. In 1988, as a playful riff on the concept of "deep listening," Oliveros decended into a large cistern buried 14 feet under the ground with two other musicians, and recorded the album Deep Listening: a record that is now considered a landmark in experimental music.

Oliveros's philosophical mantra was "Listen to everything all the time and remind yourself when you are not listening." She was a vocal advocate for women's rights, and one of her recent pieces was a composition to be performed by crowds gathered at Occupy protests.

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